The men’s marathon begins at 9 a.m. Sunday local time (Saturday night 8 PM Eastern in the USA) to open the final day of competition at the 13th IAAF World Track & Field Championships in Daegu, South Korea.  After a sweep by the Kenyan women last weekend in their marathon, it’s the Kenyan men’s turn to play catch up to their medal-hauling countrywomen.

Leading the squad will be the reigning World Champion Abel Kirui who set the 2:06:54 championship record in Berlin two years ago.  To show the power of the Kenyan potential Kirui was left off the original 10-man provisional list, only to be added by Athletics Kenya secretary David Okeyo when six other men turned down the offer to wear the red, black and green with crossed spears over shield in Daegu.  Yet even with the tragic death of 2008 Olympic champion Sammy Wanjiru this spring (“I AM SAMMY WANJIRU!”), and the decision by men like Boston Marathon champion and runner-up Geoffrey Mutai and Moses Mosop, London champion, runner-up, and third-placer  Emmanuel Mutai, Marin Lel, and Patrick Makau to sit Daegu out, the East African juggernaut will still represent, so deep is their bench.  Of the 149 sub-2:10 marathons run in 2010, fully 53% (79) were run by Kenyan men.

Since Berlin `09 Abel Kirui has changed coaches, and is now under the hand of Italy’s Renata Canova.  His PR is a swift 2:05:04, third in Rotterdam `09 behind Duncan Kibet and James Kwambai’s dual 2:04:47s.  He’s coming off a down year in 2010; a fading fifth in London and then a very disappointing ninth in New York City.

Kirui's glory in Berlin

Since then, however, he’s taken up training with Boston runner-up Moses Mosop, dogging his training partner’s 1:26:47.4 30,000m world record in Eugene June 4, which broke Toshihiko Seko’s 1981 mark of 1:29:18.8.  Kirui came second in 1:30:01, telling reporters that he was slightly hampered by a foot injury suffered while riding an exercise bike.

Abel is going well,” Coach Canova wrote me at the end of August before departing for Daegu. “He had to reduce his training about six weeks ago (beginning mid-July), for a duration of 2 weeks…he started to grow very quickly, and in my opinion he is in the best shape of his life.”

Kirui will be joined by, David Barmasai, PR 2:07:18 winning this January’s Dubai Marathon.  His Daegu team mate Eliud Kiptanui took off at 30K in Dubai, looking the probable winner, but stitched shortly thereafter, leaving Barmasai free road ahead.  Barmasai also won in Nariboi last October in 2:13:01 at high altitude.  He remains an unknown factor as this is his first championship experience. But he knows how to win.

Besides DNF’g in Dubai, Eliud Kiptanui has run four other marathons, winning two, SafariCom 2009 in Kenya (2:12:17), and the April 2010 Prague Marathon in Europe (2:05:39).  He was to have run in Vienna, but the Iceland volcano in the spring of 2010 forced him to change to Prague. Thanks, Mr. Volcano.  He completed 2010 with a fifth place in Berlin last fall (2:08:05), then fifth again this spring in Rotterdam .

32 year-old Benjamin Kiptoo is a veteran of 11 marathons, the winner of four, including his last, Paris in April 2011 (2:06:31).  He is coached by Claudio Berardelli of Rosa Associates, same coach who prepped women’s marathon silver medalist Priscah Jeptoo. “Kiptoo had a good training,” wrote Claudio, “and in his career he rarely failed to perform good in a marathon. I probably think that Vincent Kipruto is the big name to pick followed by Abel Kirui.  The only think I didn’t like from the Kenyan teamis that the men’s marathon team arrived Wednesday the 31st; I fear it will be a bit late to get used with weather conditions and jet lag.”

Vincent Kipruto

  When Claudio Berardelli speaks, like E.F. Hutton, people listen.  After all, he brought Sammy Wanjiru to Olympic gold and two straight World Marathon Majors crowns before Sammy’s untimely death this May.  Vincent Kipruto has run six career marathons, but only won one, Paris 2009 in 2:05:47.  Yet he is one of the most consistent marathoners in the world, so even if he doesn’t win in Daegu, it’s hard to pick him off the medal stand.  His PR of 2:05:13 came in Rotterdam 2010 in third place.  This spring in Rotterdam he was 20-seconds slower, but one place higher, just behind Wilson Chebet.   Debuting in Reims in 2008 in 2:08:16, good for third place, his top five average of 2:06:11 is fourth all-time behind world record holder Haile Gebrselassie, Olympic bronze medalist Tsegaye Kebede, and Olympic champ Sammy Wanjiru (stat courtesy of Ken Nakamura).  His three sub-2:06s is tied-2nd with Kebede, Wanjiru and Khannouchi behind Haile’s five.  Will lack of experience in non-paced Championship races affect him?  Tune in.

     Ethiopian Challenge

As in all distance championships or major road races and marathons, the greatest challenge offered the Kenyans come from their East African rivals to the north.  In Daegu the team from Addis Ababa consists of:

Gebre Gebremariam – PB/SB: 2:04:53 (3rd, Boston ’11), 1st, NYC `10 (2:08:14)

Eshetu Wendimu  – PB: 2:06:46 (3rd, Dubai ’10) – SB: 2:07:33 (3rd, Paris ’11)

Chala Dechase – PB: 2:06:23 (2nd, Dubai ’10) – SB: 2:08:47 (3rd, Rotterdam ’11)

Feyisa Lelisa – PB: 2:05:23 (4th, Rotterdam ’10), 3rd, `10 Chi – SB: 2:11:42 (7th, Rotterdam ’11)

Bazu Worku – PB: 2:05:25 (3rd, Berlin ’10)

Like we saw in the women’s marathon, the Kenyans fielded a team of winners, while the Ethiopians brought in fast runners without victories.  For the women the championship pedigree won out.

GG Loves NYC

     Of the Ethiopians, only Gebre Gebremariam has won a major marathon, ING New York last November in his debut, 2:08:14.  He followed up with a solid third in Boston, 2:04:53, behind the wind-blown Mutai and Mosop duel, 2:03:02 – 2:03:06.  But the way the sport has changed in recent years athletes now train for specific speed, not general fitness.  GG claimed he trained for a 2:06 pace, thinking that would win it.  Turns out his 2:04:53 was on par with a high 2:06 given the tailing zephyrs flying on Patriot’s Day.  Who knew a 2:03 (2:05 without wind, IMHO) would blow into town?

Young Feyisa Lelisa hasn’t been quite the same since taking on Sammy Wanjiru and Tsegaye Kebede in Chicago last fall.  In a heavyweight slugfest for the ages, Kebede and Wanjiru dragged the eager Lelisa into bruising tussle. He fell away off the epic battle at 35k.  A 2:11 in Rotterdam this spring may be telling us he’s still recovering.


Goumri runs with the best

We can’t forget that Jaouad Gharb of Morocco (2003-`05) is one of two men – with Spain’s Abel Anton (1997-`99)  -to win two World Championship Marathons.  Top Moroccans are a wily duo who have seen it all.  Abderrahim Goumri and Abderrahime Bouramdane arrive in Daegu with season’s bests of 2:09:11 (1st, Seoul 2011), and the 2:08:42 (7th, London). They are sharp-eyed veterans with many campaigns behind them. A slowish tactical race could put one of them on the medal stand.

Another threat could come from 22-year-old Stephen Kiprotich in the yellow strip of Uganda. He was signed to pace the Enschede Marathon this spring, then went on to win it in 2:07:20. The Ugandans have been aggressive front runners on the track
throughout the Daegu Championships.

TEAM USA –  Arciniaga leads men’s team

Nick Arcianaga

     The USA men’s marathon team will be headed by Nick Arciniaga (Flagstaff, Ariz.), who stamped his passport with a 2:11:30 second-place finish at the Chevron Houston Marathon in January (after rabbiting for Brett Gotcher).

Hey Tony, training’s going very well, I’m as fit as I’ve ever been. Ultimately my goal is to win the whole thing, but I realistically see myself in the top 10. Obviously times don’t matter and it probably won’t be a PR-type race. I’m really just hoping to go
out there and compete with the leaders all the way to the finish. I’ve run well in humidity before, but I have also been training a lot like how Meb and Deena did before Athens by wearing extra layer of clothing during my training runs.”

Team USA will also feature Sergio Reyes (Los Osos, Calif.) the 2010 USA Marathon Champion from October’s Twin Cities Marathon, 2:14:02. Jeffery Eggleston (Flagstaff, Ariz.) joined the team off his runner-up finish at the 2010 USA Men’s Marathon Championship. His 2:14:09 was just seven seconds behind Reyes.

“Hi Toni, wrote Jeff,

Jeff Eggleston

Training has gone great! I’ve remained home in Flagstaff all summer and focused on my preparations. Coach Jack has been in and out of town and it has been nice having him bike with me on workout days. I’ve also included some heat training
this summer by running in additional layers a few times a week. I leave on Wednesday and will have 10 days to get situated and acclimated over in Daegu before the race. It’s going to be a very competitive race, some challenging conditions, but I’ve trained well and know what to expect. Definitely looking to run my best marathon to date and hope to make the USA proud! 
No prep races this time, having come off Grandma’s in June (also a month after Pittsburgh). I felt it has given me ample time to recover, refocus and really advance my fitness in my workouts.”

Rounding out the men’s squad will be Mike Sayenko (Bellevue, Wash.), 2:14:27 at 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

“Toni, preparation was good pretty good, actually posted on my blog, www.runsayenko.blogspot.com – Post in July on World Prep…I had a planter fascia flare up the last week or so, so being cautious right now… Goal is top 25.”

Mike Morgan (Rochester Hills, Mich.) who earned his places on Team USA with a 2:14:55 at the 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.


We might expect the men to follow the women’s game plan in the sticky Daegu conditions:  Go easy on the first two 15k loops, then race hard the last 12+ kilometers.  The women averaged 5:49 per mile (3:36/km) and 5:51(3:37/km) over the first two 15k laps to 30k. Gold medalist Edna Kiplagat then unleashed a 5:18 per mile blitz (3:17)/km) over the last lap to sear (sic) her win.

If the men follow suit, they’ll average 5:15 per mile for the first 15Km (48:56 on the clock), then 5:17/mile to 30k (1:38:03).  Edna’s 5:18/mile final lap to gold works out to 4:47 pace for the men. Her 2:28:43 winning time is equal to 2:14:17, which would be the second slowest winning time in World Championships history.  Only Osaka 2007’s 2:15:59 by Kenya’s Luke Kibet would be slower. But Osaka produced similarly brutal conditions.

You can see it all live on Universal Sports.  Once again Josh Cox and I will have the call.  Hope you enjoy.



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